Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Oh no! Sudoku!

It finally happened. Like so many other people I have become hooked on the latest puzzle craze: Sudoku. It's my sister-in-law's fault for letting me try her handheld electronic Sudoku. It's much easier than playing the paper-and-pencil version, and I can actually finish puzzles (easy ones, anyway).

For those who don't know, Sudoku looks like a crossword puzzle but uses numbers. I didn't think I'd like it because I'm terrible at crosswords and Scrabble. (Yes, I know it's ironic. *sigh*) Unlike crosswords, Sudoku uses logic rather than knowledge of obscure words even English majors have never heard of; maybe that's why I like it. It reminds me of cryptograms, which I love.

I love it so much I bought my own LCD Ultimate Sudoku handheld game at Wal-Mart. It's somewhat clunky compared to the kind that comes with a stylus (which you can buy at Target or Kay Bee Toys) but I like it because you can get hints if you want, make uncertain answers flash until you figure them out, choose from three levels of play, and even input puzzles from other sources. There's a built-in timer, too. All this for $13! The only thing I don't like is that you can't turn the sound off. I kind of like the sound but it would be inconvenient for travel (unless you want to annoy other people).

If you want to try Sudoku I recommend Web Sudoku. It includes instructions and you can play on-line or print the puzzles. This site has millions of puzzles with four difficulty levels (easy, medium, hard, and evil) and shareware to download so you can play Sudoku on your own computer (PC or Mac) anytime. If you play on-line you can get hints, just like the handheld version. (I like hints!)

The Daily Sudoku is also good but the site is undergoing maintenance just now. You can't play on-line but there is a printable archive with puzzles of all levels of difficulty. The site includes instructions, four types of puzzles (Classic, Monster, Kids, and Squiggly), and the option of choosing the size of the printed puzzle. The kids' section has puzzles that are good for kids or adult beginners and you have the option of choosing numbers or letters.

I recommend this game, especially the electronic form, for anyone who enjoys puzzles or wants to improve their logic/critical thinking. Using my LCD Ultimate Sudoku handheld game my time has improved from about 30 minutes to about 10 minutes for an easy puzzle. I'm enjoying it so much I might even try an intermediate puzzle sometime.

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